Have you ever wondered how authors work out the structure of their books? I certainly have – I always admire those writers who hold entire plotlines in their heads, such as JK Rowling, who apparently had a fair idea of where Harry Potter was heading, how he’d get there, and why, right from the beginning. Considering she wrote 7 books in the series, the last four of which were over 600 pages long, this is some achievement!
Check out her hand-written diagram of the plot – like the other authors’ plotlines listed on this Flavourwire post, it’s a bit dizzying and slightly intimidating, but fascinating to see what was in her head.
For me, however, random is the best way to describe the way my plotting and structuring works. Basically a character forms in my head, along with a few good scenes. Then I get a one-line description in my head, such as ‘angry, physically scarred girl recovering from bad car accident’ (the basic plot of my YA novel Facing Up). And that’s pretty much it.
Then I bumble along, trying to write enough words to form a long enough story. It doesn’t really work in a linear way – Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. In fact, most of the material that formed my original Chapter 1 got dumped, turned around, or re-used elsewhere in the book.
Tablo is a new self-publishing network for writers, that allows them to do things like publish one chapter at a time for their online audience. I freaked out a bit when I read this – there’s no way I could do that! No-one would have a clue what was going on – I often have partial chapters written that fit towards the end, while others will maybe fit near the start or middle. It’s never a coherent storyline that would make sense to anyone until I’ve made multiple drafts over several years.
And since even my short stories seem to form in the same way – slowly and tortuously from the seed of an idea – I’ve decided that it’s just the way I work. Unfortunately, sometimes without a plotline to move things along, it can get quite jumbled and incoherent along the way!
But I’ve recently been trialling a program called Scrivener, as mentioned in a previous post, that helps make things a bit clearer, providing a sort of virtual manuscript, research folder, notes and assorted documents binder all in one, on your computer.
Although it’s taking a bit of getting used to, it’s relatively easy to use if you’re used to learning new computer programs. Happily, it’s making me sit and write better, clearer notes about my characters, setting and general background for my second YA novel. Sometimes when you spend a bit of time setting out your notes neatly where you can see it all easily (which Scrivener allows you to do once you’ve worked out HOW to do it!) it helps to clarify things and even cause new ideas and directions to pop up.
Hallelujah! Now just to find the time to write the rest of it 🙂